Grizzlies Dillon Brooks and Marc Gasol
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NBA predictions and betting odds: bet on a slow start from Memphis

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With the All-Star break in the rear-view mirror we dive back into the NBA betting odds for a slew of matchups tonight, highlighted by one of the league’s hottest (and most exciting teams) as Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies head to Sacramento to take on the Kings. 

Our analyst Monique Vag sizes up the NBA betting lines, including pointspreads, totals and props, and gives her best predictions for Thursday’s NBA action.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT DETROIT PISTONS

 

MISMATCH IN MOTOWN

The Bucks are 13-point road favorites as they take on the Pistons. Milwaukee has won 10 straight in the head-to-head versus Detroit, and has covered the spread eight times throughout that stretch.

With the Pistons slumping offensively losing eight of their last 10 games and being held under 100 points four times throughout that stretch, expect Milwaukee to take care of business and cover the large spread on the road.

MIAMI HEAT AT ATLANTA HAWKS

 

HEAT COOLING OFF?

The Heat are 6.5-point favorites as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks. Miami has won three straight in the head-to-head by an average score of 117-105.

Before the break, the Heat had some offensive struggles shooting under 45 percent in seven of their last 10 games. The Hawks on the other hand have averaged 123.7 points over their last three games and are capable of keeping things close. Take the Hawks getting 6.5-points.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS AT CHICAGO BULLS

 

LACK OF FIREPOWER

The lowest game total of the night is set at 211 between the Bulls and Hornets. These are two of the lower scoring teams in the Association with Chicago ranking 25th with 106.4 points a game, and the Hornets dead last with 102.9.

The Bulls are still too shorthanded to trust, with Lauri Markannen, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. among several other players still listed as out on the injury report. The Hornets have not been able to find an offensive groove, being held to 100 points or fewer in seven of their last 10. Look for both teams to continue to struggle putting up points, and bet Under the game total of 211.

BROOKLYN NETS AT PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

 

FILLING AN OFFENSIVE VOID

Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert has finally started to round back into form after missing some time away due to injury. He’s logged 20 or more points in four of his last five games and has attempted 20 field goals three times throughout that stretch.

With Kyrie Irving out of the lineup with a shoulder injury and LeVert shooting well, expect a big impact on the offensive end versus the 76ers today. The volume of attempts will surely be there, so take the Over 17.5 on his points total.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES AT SACRAMENTO KINGS

 

SLOW OUT OF THE GATE

The Grizzlies have won eight of their last 10 games overall and 10 of their last 12 versus Western Conference opponents. Despite their recent success, they are only 1.5-point road favorites tonight against the Kings.

Expect points to be difficult to come by early on, as both teams have gotten off to slow starts recently. The Grizzlies, who are typically high scoring, average only 53.8 first half points away from home, while the Kings put up just 52.3 first half ppg at home – ranking them 27th overall. Look for another slow start out of both sides, and bet Under the first half total of 112.5.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.